“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in Hmself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him.) And He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
“So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray Him.” (John 6:60–71, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns referring to God the Father, Son, and Spirit)
Jesus speaking of eating His flesh and drinking His blood was a lot for the people to swallow, especially for the Jews in the synagogue who were hearing Him without knowing Him. Our passage for today continues by telling us that even those who had been following Him as His disciples in varying degrees found these words difficult as well, saying “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” What He had told them was more than they could grasp, and they could not bear to listen any more. For Him these words were over the top being more than they could reasonably accept from one to whom they were beginning to give their allegiance.
Knowing what they were thinking and even grumbling amongst themselves about, Jesus spoke to the heart of their struggle that a man would tell other men what He had just said. Jesus said, “Do you take offense at this?” He continued by addressing His claim that God was His Father, saying, “Then what if you were able to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” They saw Him as a mere man, and by asking them if it would make any difference if they saw Him ascend back to heaven would they then believe. If He proved before their eyes that He truly was who He said He was would it really make a difference? Their hang up was over flesh and blood, and Jesus told them that it was not flesh or blood that gave life, but the Spirit who does. Jesus giving Himself for them was an act that through the vessel of flesh and blood the Son of God was sent by the Father to give life, and this life would come by the power of the Spirit (the full godhead—Father, Son, Holy Spirit). They were looking at the flesh and blood, but Jesus was talking about spirit and life. They were looking at what they could touch and Jesus was talking about their much greater need, that they would be made spiritually alive and given eternal life.
He went on to state the obvious that some of them did not believe, and beyond that John adds that Jesus knew exactly who they were. He knew this from the beginning—from eternity past. There was no question in His mind that these people were in the crowd, and no demonstration beyond what He had already shown them was changing that according to the foreknowledge and plan of God. Not only did He know who in that crowd did not believe, He also knew who would soon even betray Him. Knowing this Jesus restated, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After these words our passage tells us that some turned and walked away, no longer to be associated with Him as His disciples. Jesus drew a line of belief and some were not willing to cross it.
Having spoken to the crowd and seeing some leave, Jesus turned to the Twelve, saying, “Do you want to go away as well?” They were there for these incredible words. They saw the numbers turn away, and Jesus turned to ask them if they wanted to do the same thing. I love Peter for his response. In fact, this was a regular pattern of his with him regularly being recorded as the one speaking up to affirm their allegiance and ask out there kinds of questions. Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.” What an amazing statement, even if he didn’t see everything clearly Peter knew that Jesus was from God and that he could go nowhere else. He had no place else to go. Jesus was the only One who he could follow, and having said this Peter spoke on behalf of all of them, likely without turning to look at their faces or ask their opinion.
Jesus responded to Peter’s affirmation, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” Wow, having just seen a number of people turn and walk away, and it was probably a very significant number, Jesus reaffirms His selection of them for this special relationship. But in His affirmation He said something that must have been quite startling and possibly even denied by those who heard it. He said that even having selected them that one of them was a devil. This was a pretty harsh statement. He didn’t just say that one more would walk away. No, He said one of them had evil at his core. To this John added, with the benefit of writing at a later time, that this individual was Judas who would later betray Him.
Jumping forward to His last supper with His disciples, at one point in the meal Jesus got up and began to wash His disciples’ feet. Again Peter spoke up saying that he needed his whole body to be cleaned, to which Jesus responded to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For He knew who was to betray Him; that was why He said, “Not all of you are clean.”” (John 13:10–11, ESV) Just a few verses later He added, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.” (John 13:18–19, ESV) Peter kept the conversation going, and then in verses 26 and 27 Jesus responded to Peter’s question, “Lord, who is it?” “Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”” (John 13:26–27, ESV)
In Mark 14 we read that it was two days before the Passover and the chief priests and scribes were seeking who to arrest Him and plot to kill Him (verses 1-2). It was during this that we also read that Jesus was at a house in Bethany when a woman came with pure alabaster oil and anointed Jesus’ feet with this very expensive gift. We read about her having done this that some became indignant in themselves wondering about the great waste of what they had just seen. They scolded the woman, to which Jesus responded, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”” (Mark 14:6–9, ESV)
The next words recorded by Mark were, “Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray Him.” (Mark 14:10–11, ESV) It was then that Luke tells us, “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them.” (Luke 22:3–4, ESV) Jesus told His disciples at this earlier event that one of the twelve was of the devil, and as we see it come to pass this indeed is what happened.
It is an amazing thing to see how our God works even through the evil intentions of man in order to accomplish His plan just as He intends. From before time God knew that Judas was to be one of the Twelve, given this special access to Jesus. God knew through this special access that Judas would also be the one who would one day succumb to the devil and willingly turn Jesus over to His persecutors, even leading to His death. God was working in all of this to bring about His intended purpose that the Son of Man would come to give His body and shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins and give life to all who believe.
Sometimes we can be tempted to look at the situations in our own lives and wonder. This is especially true of things that we see as unjust or maybe not fair. But looking at how Jesus walked among people that He knew person by person would not believe and beyond that even betray Him, we can be encouraged with the assurance that He is present with the Father interceding on our behalf. We can also be thankful that He did not leave us alone when He returned to the Father, but that the Father sent the Spirit to indwell every single believer in order to accomplish so much in us which even includes being our Comfort and Counsel. Looking to this we can stand with Paul with the words, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:26–30, NASB95)
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